House Calls

SPR 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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h o u s e c a l l s { spring 2018 } 25 USER INTERFACE A guide to the web of digital addiction The medical world doesn't set specific restrictions on screen time for adults, so how do we know how much is too much? "If technology use begins interfering with relationships or the activities of daily living, it's time to reevaluate your usage," says clinical psychologist Maia Gill. Ask yourself or your loved one these questions: ❒ Does screen time take precedence over eating, bathing, or other essential daily activities? ❒ Is your work suffering because you are distracted by social media? ❒ Have you stopped hobbies for screen time? ❒ Are you using technology to escape reality daily and for long periods of time? ❒ Do you feel safer socializing online and avoid meeting others in person? If you answered "yes" to any of these, bring up the topic with your primary care provider during your next visit; he or she can help devise a plan of attack for curbing usage. There may be an underlying mental health condition that's driving the behavior. Future research is needed to determine if problematic Internet use is even a disorder and, if so, does it belong in the impulse control category or under substance related and addictive disorders," she says. Historically, addiction refers to substances, taken in excess, that light up the brain's reward system, eventually altering several regions of the brain (extended amygdala, basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex), leading to cravings, withdrawal, and tolerance. "Excessive gambling and Internet gaming have addictive qualities; we'll have to wait and see if other repetitive behaviors qualify as disorders in the future," explains Dr. Gill. Such compulsions stem from "hits" of dopamine and other natural chemicals that excite our brain's reward center each time we engage in the particular behavior. "As humans, we're built to survive by seeking new things," continues the clinical psychologist, "and that's the genius of social media sites, which use constantly changing formats that provide mini dopamine highs with each new post, like, and tweet." In fact, one former Google employee likened social media's "pull-to-refresh" mechanism to slot machines. VIRAL IMPACT So what happens to our bodies and our brains when we succumb to the siren call of screens? "The more time people spend looking at screens, the less active they become," reasons Dr. Abdel-Samie. The medical journal BMJ Open warns that sitting for three-plus hours daily can diminish a person's life expectancy by up to two years. "A sedentary lifestyle reduces mobility, may cause blood clots, and can lead to obesity, which in turn increases a person's risk for serious illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and bone and joint problems," agrees Dr. Gill. Our figurative hearts suffer from screen OD, as well, with studies linking TIP: Download a personalized family media use plan, including a media time calculator and media manners, from the American Academy of Pediatrics at healthychildren.org/mediauseplan. Dr. Souzan Abdel-Samie

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